The 2014-15 Federal Budget will increase the impact on women of income inequality, difficulty accessing affordable quality child care, scarcity of affordable housing, and rising costs of healthcare, according to the Women’s Electoral Lobby.
WEL Australia Secretary Emma Davidson said that the Budget includes measures introducing disincentives for not being in paid work, but does not provide adequate funding for initiatives that will solve problems such as childcare affordability. Even worse, there are cuts to programs and the introduction of co-payments that make it even harder for women on low incomes to make ends meet.
“This Budget will see even more women, particularly women with children and older women on Age Pensions, in need of homelessness support or acute health care services in hospitals,” Emma Davidson said.
“The negative effects of this Budget will be felt for generations to come.”
Workplace Gender Equity Agency
“We are relieved to see that funding for the WGEA will continue. The WGEA is pivotal to improving workplace equity. It’s function could not have been effectively absorbed into the Department of Employment.”
Early Childhood Education and Care
“Early Childhood Education and Care needs urgent attention. While access to early childhood services remains a problem for women, so will their workforce participation.
“Affordability, accessibility and distribution have been ongoing concerns for years. Even when receiving the rebates available, services remain unaffordable for many families.
“Pausing indexation of the Child Care Rebate, cutting Family Tax Benefit Part B for parents of children over six years old, reducing the primary earner income limit for Family Tax Benefit Part B, and changes to the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance program, make it even harder. The combination of these measures means many more women will be looking for work, and will need childcare to make this possible, but will find it harder to pay for quality care.
“On top of the effects on women in paid work, there are cuts totalling $39.3m over 5 years, much of which will reduce the funding for learning support and professional improvement for child care workers. We are concerned about the effect this will have on low paid child care sector workers.”
Paid Parental Leave
Ms Davidson said WEL welcomed the Government’s announced amendments to Paid Parental Leave from 1 July 2015, but would like to see more detail about what will be introduced.
“We hope to see paid parental leave introduced for 26 weeks at replacement wage, with the addition of superannuation as crucial to ensure women do not continue to suffer such large disparities from men in this area.
“The government should only be contributing the minimum wage for women on paid parental leave and employers should be topping up this pay to meet the replacement wage.
“This would free up government funding for other important initiatives such as early childhood services, from which there have been substantial cuts in this Budget.
“It is vital that this payment be delivered by the employer to maintain women’s connection with the workforce and reinforce it as a workplace entitlement.”
“WEL is deeply concerned about the introduction of co-payments for GP visits” said Ms Davidson.
“This will severely limit the ability for some women, including disproportionately young and older women, to access adequate health care; including reproductive and sexual health care.”
Raising age of Pension
“With a gender pay gap of 17% and women accruing a third of the super of men throughout their lives, more women are retiring in poverty.
“This has particular impact for older women who do not own their home. Without superannuation or public housing, these women already face the rest of their life on the Age Pension paying high private market rent. This Budget cuts funding for important housing programs, such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme, that would have helped more low income women secure affordable long-term rental housing.
“Raising the age of the pension to 70 leaves these women out in the cold, without financial support; contributing to the growing housing and homelessness issue for older women.”